Jaleigh Johnson's THE SECRETS OF SOLACE - Guest Post

Story Behind the Story
by Jaleigh Johnson

      The story behind THE SECRETS OF SOLACE is as simple as this: I love museums. I always have. To me, they are windows to times and places that are gone now, attempts at preserving things that need to be remembered. Several years ago, I visited the Louvre in Paris, France. What a fascinating place. You step into a big glass pyramid, walk down a turning stairway, and there you are, with paths to cavernous, connected rooms and thousands of artifacts waiting to be explored.
      As I walked through each room, night began to fall, and the windows turned dark. The museum was open later than usual that night, and as the crowds began to thin and my footsteps echoed on the floors, I began to feel as if I was in a different world. I could have explored for ages.
      My mind always being in one world or another, after that visit I began to think about the idea of a museum filled with objects preserved from different worlds. Who would build such a place and why? That’s how I came up with the idea for the archivists, the dedicated men and women who have made it their life’s mission to study and preserve the objects from other worlds that fall in the meteor storms in Solace. They collect objects and store them in vast, underground museums deep in the mountains. Some of these objects are beautiful, some scientific, and some of them feel like magic. All of them are worthy of being preserved and remembered, but in such a large museum, sometimes things get…lost.
      It’s up to my protagonist, Lina Winterbock, a lost girl herself, to find them. She teams up with a brave, resourceful boy named Ozben, and their adventures and choices could end up changing their world forever. Because every object, no matter how small, has a purpose, and every person, no matter how small they may feel, is important.

     JALEIGH JOHNSON is a lifelong reader, gamer, and moviegoer. She loves nothing better than to escape into fictional worlds and take part in fantastic adventures. She lives and writes in the wilds of the Midwest, but you can visit her online at jaleighjohnson.com or on Twitter at @JaleighJohnson.

Woodcuts at the University of Edinburgh

I've been surprised to find that I really enjoy doing woodcuts. Some recent projects have let me experiment with it, and although I'm still terrible at it, I do enjoy the process. The first project was to do an illustration from a classic novel. I chose Robinson Crusoe. He seems to be constantly worrying about religion, so I created the image on the left on Asian Plywood. The second project was to do 15 prints (all the same) utilizing the print lab (screen print, relief print, etc.). Sign and number the pieces, one for each of our fellow illustration classmates. I decided to do a children's book version of The Wild Hunt - on the right.
At first, I liked the Asian plywood better, it carved more easily. But then it warped. Hm. The MDF was a little harder to carve, but stayed flat. Here's my print setup:
I was so proud of myself, I didn't need to ask for help once!
Not even when I used the more modern relief printer.
Although, maybe I should have. Our third project was to create a portfolio to hold the 15 prints we get from our classmates. I made the portfolio just fine, then decided to make a label using a linocut. What's wrong with this picture?
Did you get it? Click the image to go see the answer.

Yeah. That was an hour of my life wasted. PAH! And I don't like working on the lino as much anyhow. But, y'know what? I'm LEARNING!!!!!
     So the final prints were done. Maybe you noticed I made the same mistake on the Robinson Crusoe piece? Lucky for me, the final product was digital for that one, so I was able to reverse it. The project also required a second color being added in. Here's my final:
The Wild Hunt took a little longer. I had to ink the woodcut, carefully place it on the relief printer with paper facing right side down, then the heavy fabric on top. Roll, roll, roll, roll... for every single print—16 total (one was a test). It was time consuming. But I got them all done.
I think they look better from a distance. My method is a mess, but considering this was only the third woodcut of my life, I'm okay with it. (I hope I get better at this!) Meanwhile, this is what my classmates will receive:

Coloring Page Tuesday - Tortoise and the Hare

     What if...
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Bookmarks at ECA!

Thursday was the Bookmarks event at the Edinburgh College of Art. My fellow classmates have been panicking for days preparing for it.
I decided to just observe this year mostly because I'm also trying to put together my PhD proposal instead. But I did get to enjoy! Here was the sculpture court as folks set up. It got insanely busy later.
Lectures began at 1:00 - speakers were bookmakers, museum curators, printers, and professors from other colleges. It is amazing what a book can be, so much more than we initially assume! Here's a good example. Sorour Fattahi did the most amazing things with the book form:
I got so inspired by what people showed. My favorites were collograph pieces by Anupa Gardner - GADS! And first year illustration students had made some stunning mini woodcut books.
My friend Sara did well, and I bought a diary from her.
And all my fellow post grad classmates did well too. Look at the spread!
I was so proud of them! Here are Karin, Catherine and Sarah - good job, guys!


This looks really interesting! I want to see! Click the image to watch the trailer on Youtube:

Illustration Challenge #42

In honor of Janice Hardy's Icebox Challenge over at Fiction University, I give you a similar challenge... Pull something out of your cabinets or from your kitchen counter—fruit, a box of crackers, a can of soup—and render it as realistically as you can. Don't forget to choose some interesting lighting!

New Feature: Heart Art starring Guess How Much I Love You

This week I'm starting a new feature I'm calling HEART ART. These posts will be about books, new and perhaps a little older, that are illustrated with such skill and magic, they capture the reader and won't let go. Sometimes I'll get interviews with the illustrators, sometimes not, but I won't let that stop me from sharing some exceptionally illustrated books with you! So be looking for my new logo on books I think are extra special and full of true HEART ART!

I'll begin my HEART ART feature with...
Just in time for Easter, although it a lovely story at any time of the year, a special anniversary gift edition of Guess How Much I Love You is now available with a gold cover and a unique note from the award-winning creators inside. Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure! Now new and existing fans can relive this cherished classic with this lavish edition, celebrating two decades of delighting readers since its initial creation.
Go to www.guesshowmuchiloveyou.com to learn more about the book and download free activity pages!

So what makes Guess How Much I Love You HEART ART? Look at the interactions between the characters, the sense of play, the wonderful gestures. Also notice the fine ink line and delicate watercolor. There's a reason this book has become a classic!

Pomegranates and Color Palettes

I don't know if it's because I'm a student, or if there's just more color here in Edinburgh (they use colored lights in such strategic and beautiful ways here), but I have been hyper aware of awesome color palettes of late. One of the best ones has occurred around a restaurant on Leith Walk called Pomegranates.

Image from restaurant website.
The other day we ate at a restaurant across the street and I had a great view of the facade of Pomegranates. The paint on the exterior alone was enough to excite this artist's brain. But add to that the people walking by in various colored coats and sweaters (olive, scarlet, navy, pink, etc.) and it became a constantly changing feast for my eyes! I couldn't stop commenting on it.
     Stan just rolled his eyes. "You're such an artist."
     So, this weekend we went to Pomegranates for lunch. It is some amazingly delicious mediterranean food, so we will be back. But what really got me were the colors. The inside was even better than the outside!
I mean look at the chartreuse and scarlet, light purple, aubergine, turquoise, hot pink - GADS! And then, THEN, a woman walked in wearing a French's mustard yellow coat! My head nearly exploded!
She sat down at a table near us and proceeded to reveal a light chartreuse shirt. Even the wood trim took on an orange hue with the light shining on it. Between that, the table cloth and her coat, I just couldn't stand it!
I love color and I love how it moves me here - I am inspired constantly!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Peter Cottontail!

     Here comes Peter Cottontail... in STYLE!!!!
     CLICK HERE for more Easter-themed coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Edinburgh Printmakers

All sorts of traditional printing methods have made a real comeback in the art world. In no small part, Edinburgh Printmakers is partly responsible. This is a print studio just around the corner from where we live. They were having a clearance sale on Saturday, so Stan and I dropped by.

Image from Google Street
It was a beautiful day, and word had gotten out. The place was jam-packed with people! On the second floor there was a window where you could look down into the print studio.

Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
In the back left you can see the screen printing tables. There's a press, sort of like our ECA Eagle Press near the front, although this one looks to be a little newer (but still old). Drying racks are to the left of that. Heck, the place is just chocked full of fun toys. It makes me want to get into our print studio at school and get my fingers in some paint! And I may have to explore etching next year. Hmmmmm.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Ooooo - this looks like it may even be more fun than the book! I can't wait! Click the image to read an article about the upcoming movie at Entertainment Weekly and watch the trailer.

Illustration Challenge #41

Try to draw water - in all its forms: rain, river, ice, mist, lake, ocean. Your choice!

How I create my coloring pages...

Long time follower Joanne recently emailed me to ask how I create my coloring pages. I was surprised that I'd never shared that with you before - so let me remedy that!
     Ideas for my coloring pages come from things I love to doodle anyhow - bears, fairies, readers. You've seen them, so I hope you know! They also come from pending holidays and YOU. Dear readers, you send in some lovely ideas!
     What makes a good idea? Well, my images are usually fairly simple - one character doing something silly - or reading. I really love giving teachers and book lovers reading images.
     I'll often do a bunch of sketches in one batch - like this:
Do you recognize any of these? I used most of them.
     Or maybe they'll be line drawings of the hand-drawn cards I create for friends.
     Either way, they don't really have to be very tight drawings - I mostly use my sketches as a guide. I scan these into Photoshop and paste them into an 8.5x11" grayscale document (300ppi). The sketch remains on one layer, where I lower its opacity if it's dark. Then I create a new layer and create my 'line art' on that new layer. I use a hard-edged pen at about 13 or 19 pixels. This is one of the first standard pens that comes with Photoshop - nothing fancy. The larger the pen, the more the variation in line quality - if I'm careful. To get that line quality, I draw using a Wacom tablet with a pen-mouse. It looks a bit like this although I use a newer model now:
The work-in-progress looks like this:
Remember this one from Christmas?
     I do the originals at 8.5x11" size because sometimes folks want to buy usage rights to one of my images for something else, like a t-shirt or logo. Those need to be high resolution images. But for my coloring pages, I size them down. I keep an existing template which is 1000 pixels high and 773 pixels wide. Over the years and per your feedback, I've found that size works for most home printers without printing to two pages.
     You'll notice all the copyright information I have on my template. Sadly, I had to start doing this because theft of my images online is rampant. Most of the theft occurs through algorithms which collect images into temporary databases made available to the public. For those, my copyright is very important. Unfortunately, there are also the yucky people who actually strip my copyright information from my images and post them online as their own. I wrote a big article about that a while back. CLICK HERE if you are interested in reading it.
     It's why I also always put a copyright line up against my artwork along with in the template frame.
     I save the "big" version of my coloring page as a "Maximum JPG" which seems to print fine for most of my followers.
     I also save two other sizes of my images - a medium and a small. The medium-sized image (with it's copyright) is the one that goes on my blog posts. I usually save it as a "high JPG" at about 350 to 400 pixels wide. The small image is also saved as a "high JPG" at 200 pixels on its longest side for my online collection which you can see HERE.
     The result is what I hope you've come to enjoy and share - a finished coloring page. This one has always been one of my faves - I love snowmen. (Click the image to see its big version in a new window.)
     I tell folks the main reason I create my coloring pages is to draw (ha!) attention to MY BOOKS. But honestly, the business of children's books is a surprisingly tough one full of rejection. I can't tell you how much joy sharing my images with all of you has brought me over the years. Oftentimes, in my darkest children's book publishing moments, one of you will send me a note of thanks about my coloring pages - making me smile. So, THANK YOU to Joanne and the rest of you for being such loyal followers! You really do make all of my hard work worthwhile!
     CLICK HERE to visit my collection of coloring pages and CLICK HERE to subscribe to receive each week's coloring page in your in-box.

Steve Light's THE BUNNY BURROW BUYERS BOOK - Guest Post!

by Steve Light

     This book started with a brush stroke. I had been studying Zen paintings and doing some large drawings that had a large brush stroke as the main design element. So when Sharyn Rosart, my editor at Powerhouse Books, asked me for book ideas I just showed her a page of brushstrokes with red dots! Being the super editor that she is, she said, “Great! How can we make it a book?” I did not know what the red dots would be but knew I wanted a single brushstroke to run through the whole book.
      At first, the red dots were going to be a ball bouncing through the country side. Then I remembered an idea I started in another sketchbook about critter real estate and the animals in the forest selling their nests, burrows and caves. Then it hit me, the red dots could be the holes to burrows and it could be about one bunny family looking for a new burrow.
      All the artwork was produced on one long accordion folded piece of paper about 6 feet long! It was exciting and fun making that great long brushstroke. The brush I used was made of rooster feathers and gives a very scraggily line. Once the brushstroke was painted and the burrow holes were placed I started drawing all the trees and bunnies. The red dots became die-cuts so children could place their little fingers through the holes like little bunnies.
      Instead of an accordion fold book, which became too difficult to read, the pages have gatefolds allowing the reader to see inside each burrow.
      I kept the color scheme simple in black and red so the burrow holes would still be the red dots on the brushstroke. The end pages are the classifieds from a newspaper, listing different burrows and critter homes for sale. Some of the listings are for famous bunny homes but I’ll leave that to the reader to guess who they are.
      The fact that on every page turn the bunny family would get bigger, making them look for a larger and larger burrow, delighted me. I also had fun making the burrows occupied by ogres and dragons and fairies. This just added a more magical and a little bit scary element to the book.
      Moving can be a scary time for kids but hopefully they will come to realize that as long as their family is together, then they are home.
     The brush stroke becomes the ground that the trees and burrows are growing out of, like a safety line connecting the old burrow home to the new one. All the places you live become apart of you, just like your family. So that is how I came to make a bunny brushstroke book, The Bunny Burrow Buyers Book, A Tale of Rabbit Real Estate and my longest book title ever!

Steve Light is the author of many best-selling children's books, including the Vehicles Go! series (Trucks Go!, Trains Go!, Diggers Go!, Planes Go! and Boats Go!, all from Chronicle) and Have You Seen My Dragon? (Candlewick, 2014) Steve is a preschool teacher and professional storyteller who lives with his wife in New York City. Learn more at http://stevelightart.com

Click the image to watch Steve in his studio at All the Wonders.

Date Night in Edinburgh

Saturday evening Stan and I had a right and proper date night - I have to share. It all centered around a performance by the Edinburgh University Music Society Symphony Orchestra & Chorus.
My friend Amandine sings in the chorus and I wanted to hear her doing her thing. The performance was going to be at St. Mary's Cathedral on the west side of town. I had no idea what to expect, but let me tell you, it exceeded anything my tiny brain might have come up with!
     First, let's back up. St. Mary's is on the west side of town, so Stan found a nice restaurant nearby and we called a taxi to get us there. We ended up at the Edinburgh Larder - one of the very restaurants featured at the last Scran Salon (a networking group of foodies) we attended. Stan had a pork shoulder stew and I had a kale-like gratin. All I can say is, YUM!!!
     From there we walked two blocks to St. Mary's Cathedral. Here's a photo I got during the day a while back, since it was all dark when we got there on Saturday.
THIS is where the concert was to take place:
What we quickly learned is that going to listen to the symphony in a medieval cathedral is not the same as going to the symphony in a concert hall. We had dressed up. Silly us. Seating was first-come, first-serve (with tickets because the show was sold out). We found a place to sit and I was about to take off my coat, when I realized, everybody around us still had their coats on. In fact, nobody was dressed up. It was scarves and boots and hats, the whole thing. Because these cathedrals are not heated! But truly, who cares when this is your view:
It's been ages since I've been to the symphony and I had forgotten the wonderful thing that happens when I go... my brain comes up with story. I hear stories in the music. And I don't mean little things. I'm talking full-on cinematic, epic tales with fully fleshed out characters, plot arcs, scenes, conflicts, the whole thing. And so was born "Rose and the Imp" - I'm already 2,000 words in. (I had to start writing the moment we got home.)
     But back to the cathedral...I went looking for Amandine at the intermission, but it was extremely crowded 'backstage' - more like 'back church.' Still, I got some good photos. Here is the orchestra from behind.
Off to the side was a transept (??), which doubled as storage for the instruments.
The choral area where Amandine was sitting was huge, and up a bit. It's no wonder I never saw her. This was an enormous production! There were as many people performing (maybe more) than there were watching, even with the sold out performance!
     So dinner was delicious, the performance was marvelous. We walked out of St. Mary's afterwards, ran into some new friends, then debated hailing a taxi when we saw the tram go by at the cross-street. We had not tried the tram yet, even though it stops right at the top of our hill in Broughton. We just hadn't gotten around to it. So, we decided to take the tram!
     The tram is rather new to Edinburgh, so there are still some mixed feelings about it, but people are starting to get used to it. You buy your ticket at the platform. £3's for the two of us - a deal! I'm sorry I didn't get any photos of this part, but it was a wonderfully smooth ride, quiet and comfortable. It went right down Prince's Street and cut up to St. Andrews Square (our square) in no time flat. And it stopped at the top of Broughton Street. TaDA! Gads, it was awesome! We'll be doing that again. And it suddenly made the west side of town feel so much closer!
     It was such a mild evening, we meandered down Broughton Street slowly, hand-in-hand. Then we popped into one of our wine shops to buy:
Back at our flat, we indulged, I wrote, and we gushed about what a great date night it had been. Truly. I love it here.